The author makes shakshuka in a cherished pot.
The author makes shakshuka in a cherished pot.

Old pots and pans lose their shine, but memories don’t fade

After we got engaged and after we chose a wedding date, we registered for a set of milchig pots and a set of fleishig pots along with dinnerware, flatware, knives, kitchen tools and kitchen appliances such as a stand mixer and a food processor that I still use today.

My hubby says, let’s buy some new pots and pans. We’ve had our pots and pans for over 20 years now. They no longer look pretty and shiny new anymore. But I don’t need new ones. Mine work just fine.

I replaced a small dairy pot many years ago because I had babies at home and was sleep deprived and forgot about the boiling water in the small pot and it burned to black. But other than that, these pots and pans have been with me a long time — they are older than my kids.

I’m not a sentimental hoarder. I haven’t saved all the kids’ arts and crafts projects — just the pieces that spoke to me. I kept the cribs and bumpers and some of the clothing, like a pair of Hannah Anderson striped pajamas that Samuel used to wear all the time and that beautiful gray dress with the white flowers and Peter Pan collar that Sophie wore to High Holy Day services until it didn’t fit her anymore. I love that dress.

I saved a few board books, especially books about mothers who tell their children how much they love them on each page. I kept these books because I must have known that once my kids entered high school, I wouldn’t be able to tell them how much I love them all the time anymore. If I did that now, they’d roll their eyes and leave the room. Saving these books reminds me of that sweet time when I was the center of their world.

I won’t be packing up the pots and pans and putting them in the same closet with the old photos, the art projects, the clothes, cribs and books. I’d have to throw them out if I bought new ones, and I can’t bring myself to do that just yet.

My hubby used to make peanut butter and banana French toast for the kids every Saturday morning in the medium frying pan when the kids were young enough that they had no place to go and nothing to do but be with us on a Saturday. I love that frying pan.

I’ve cooked brisket the same way in the big roaster pot every Jewish holiday for over 15 years now. The kids still look forward to the Jewish holidays and my brisket.

I’ve made countless Shabbat dinners in these pots and pans and quick weekday dinners almost every night of the school week, and frittatas, shakshuka and stir-fries when I didn’t have time to go to the market, and there wasn’t much in the pantry. I’ve made favorite meals for birthdays, first night home from sleep-away camp meals and end of school year celebration dinners.

Not everything I’ve made in my pots and pans has been a success. We had a new family over for dinner many years ago, and I wanted to impress them. But everything I cooked was terrible. Except for the dessert that I bought from the bakery. That was the night I learned never to make anything new for new people.

I thought cooking had to be complicated back then. I didn’t grow up in a house where we cooked, so I tried to teach myself and made elaborate things from fancy recipes that never turned out as good as the picture. I’ve learned to simplify. I learned to fuss less. Food is better that way. Maybe I should do that with the kids. Not fuss so much.

I have a list that hangs in my kitchen where the kids wrote down their favorite foods that I cook or dishes they want me to make. It’s been in our kitchen since they were in elementary school. One day soon, I’ll take it down when there aren’t kids at home to cook for anymore. Maybe then I’ll be ready to buy some new pots and pans.

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Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer and the editor of the Jewish lifestyle blog Florence and Isabelle. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.